Detroit fires down during Angels' Night efforts

Tom Greenwood; and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan joins Motor City Blight Busters Angel Night volunteers.

Detroit — It was 8:30 p.m. Thursday, and about 200 volunteers, including cyclists, reported for patrol duty at the Butzel Family Recreation Center on the city's east side.

Their job: to make sure Angels' Night went smoothly, with the patrolers hoping to ward off the arsonists who in years past have marred the days leading up to Halloween.

So far, it's been uneventful, city officials say.

"It's been a normal evening on par with last year," said John Roach, spokesman for Mayor Mike Duggan. "Last year was considered a very quiet year."

Earlier Thursday, Duggan's office announced the number of Wednesday's fires — including those of suspicious origin — were down from the same time period in 2013.

According to the city, between midnight Wednesday and noon Thursday there were 28 fires compared to 33 fires during the same 24-hour period last year. Seven of Wednesday's fires were deemed to be suspicious in origin compared with 16 suspicious fires in 2013.

The city also said 3,500 people have volunteered for this year's Angels' Night patrols, more than double the 1,700 volunteers who stepped up in 2013.

Joya James of Detroit checks out a map for the area she will patrol, Wednesday at the Butzel Family Center on Detroit’s east side.

Those volunteers Thursday included 80 employees from DTE Energy, who gathered at the Northwest Activity Center on the city's west side and then headed out in 40 trucks, said DTE Energy Spokesman Scott Simon.

"Our employees are members of the community, so they want to help out as much as they can," Simon said.

Over at Butzel, volunteers were still registering Thursday evening, a good sign, said Erinn Harris, deputy director for District 5.

"We're doing very well with our patrol numbers," said Harris. "We have a huge number of bikers, which I think is fantastic."

The bike riders are part of the Slow Roll bike movement in Detroit, Harris said.

"They're doing a fantastic job riding their bikes in the neighborhood," Harris said. "We have some walkers as well and people pairing up in cars."

Wednesday marked the first night that thousands of volunteers began their patrol of city streets during the first two days leading up to Halloween.